“We will spare no effort to complete the project without delay,” said Lin Tao in Szczecin, a port in northwestern Poland, where Chinese workers are making the final preparations for the ground-breaking of a dock building and dredging project.
The deep water harbour project between China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) and the leading Polish chemical company Grupa Azoty is part of the Chinese Belt & Road Initiative (BRI).
The outbreak of COVID-19 has led to a halt of flights from China and visa approvals for Chinese travellers, but Lin, director of the CHEC Polish branch said the project is going well with minimal impact from the novel coronavirus.
“The problem was that some Chinese staff couldn’t come by February as scheduled, and we recruited local workers,” he said.
Pointing to the face masks and disinfectants at office, Lin told that they have also taken prevention measures including a 14-day self-quarantining after arrival from areas hit hard by the novel coronavirus.
For Pinggao Group, the Chinese company currently undertaking five projects for Poland’s electricity grid operator, working from home is a must to stem possible infections of COVID-19.
Of the five projects, two are categorised as European Union (EU) major projects set to be delivered in June. “In order to deliver the projects on time, our managing team has made work arrangements and coordinated assignments remotely from China using WeChat and email,” said Li Xiao, general manager of Pinggao’s Polish branch.
Effective virus prevention is a priority. Pinggao has made a contingency plan, including “checking the temperature of our employees regularly … At the same time, we keep local staff well-informed about the virus to ensure there are no imported cases through our company,” Li said.
For the Peljesac Bridge at Mali Ston Bay in Croatia, some 500 construction workers were deployed at the site in order to keep up with the schedule, according to Lu Shengwei, local representative for China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC).
In addition, a Chinese cargo ship carrying huge steel box girders arrived on Feb. 29 after a month-long voyage, barely in time for the EU-funded project to be completed as planned.
The ship’s 22 crew members had unexpected health checks at the ports of Singapore and the Suez Canal, and they sailed into the Croatian waters just one day before a COVID-19 case was confirmed in the Balkan country.
Having prepared itself for a worst-case scenario, the CRBC is determined to complete the project without delay. For example, to get enough building materials, the Chinese contractor has expanded purchases locally and in other countries.
In Stanari, a small town in northern Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), a Chinese built thermal power plant is operating with five members of the Chinese operation and maintenance team returning on Feb. 5 from the Chinese New Year holidays.
Mayor Dusan Panic has expressed his satisfaction with the performance of the power plant and his confidence in China.
“No virus can disrupt the friendly relations between the two nations, and I also hope that China Dongfang Electric Corporation (DEC) will continue to be present in BiH and Stanari,” Panic told.
“If I’m needed in China, I would go immediately to show there is no need for fear and panic,” he said.
According to Katarina Zakic, Research fellow at Serbia’s Institute of International Politics and Economics, the projects managed by Chinese companies in his country have not been affected by the coronavirus outbreak.
“I don’t think there will be problems … Zijin Mining in Bor and Hesteel Serbia factory in Smederevo are working regularly. We are still in the first stages of building the tire factory in Zrenjanin by company Shandong Linglong,” he said.